The Red Sox kick off a season without any expectations

Red Sox

Let’s lay it plain: This is a season for the sickos.

A fan cheers from the stands at a baseball game.
The Red Sox finished 19-12-3 this spring, with the second-best ERA in the Grapefruit League at 3.76. Danielle Parhizkaran/Globe Staff


On Wednesday morning, John Henry was trending on social media. This happened frequently enough over the winter for me to note it, and while sometimes it was just a rallying point for basic internet yelling, it often was a signal flare.

A baseball player signed somewhere. Somewhere other than Boston.

Like I said, it happened a lot.

Wednesday’s prompt was Jordan Montgomery, the Rangers’ October horse who spent much of the winter linked to Boston, and much of the winter actually in Boston, only to settle for short money in Arizona. A perfect coda to the “full throttle” offseason.

They could have done that. They could have done so many things.

Seems almost cute to revisit, months after Red Sox brass ran from Tom Werner’s boast. What recent winter would “full throttle” have been easier to do? Some guys did make their money, and not just Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in LA. Eduardo Rodríguez and Michael Wacha did quite well for themselves, for two.

But Marcus Stroman? Michael Lorenzen, taking a pay cut after making the All-Star team? Jack Flaherty, who Detroit nabbed for bounceback money two weeks before the Sox did Lucas Giolito? Blake Snell, taking essentially one year from the Giants?

We can quibble on each with whether the Sox should have — as plenty did when I made this point after the Snell signing:

Years of watching the Jets win offseason championships, then resume their Jets-ness, will do that to a fan base.

But the future’s still the future. In the present, the Red Sox never pivoted to prioritizing 2024, and neither of their biggest on-field additions — Giolito (out until 2025) and Vaughn Grissom (likely building up until May) — will be anywhere near donning uniforms for Thursday’s season opener in Seattle.

Of all the years to open with a west coast trip. The ratings people might need electron microscopes.

Maybe history will declare it smart. There is at least a nominal buzz as the team heads north. “Better talent than last season,” wrote Pete Abraham in the Globe, and he’s right. Should be better defensively, with a healthy Trevor Story tying together the infield.

“If they give trophies for vibes,” manager Alex Cora told Audacy’s Rob Bradford, “we’re up there.”

Credit where it’s due: He got something out of them this spring. Also, if principal owner Henry cracking jokes about the Netflix documentary during a rare public appearance was anything, a vibe was among those things.

Let’s lay it plain: This is a season for the sickos. The bleeding-edge diehards. The ones who’ve been dreaming about Ceddanne Rafaela since he was pinballing around Salem Memorial Ballpark in the summer of ’21. The ones who, if the Sox are above .500 again in July, in touching distance of a wild card again into late August, will be tut-tutting the doubters and watching the out-of-town scores.

Bless ’em, and not just because they’ll be the only ones reading these missives by June. Because these dogs will have a day somewhere in the next six months. Who’s really out of a 12-team postseason before the first game is played? Baseball’s built a sport where winning 100 ain’t all that much better than winning 85, and it didn’t happen by accident.

Even here. Even now, when this roster looks more fit to throw in a simulator just to see what would happen. Look at this depth chart, will you? How many of these guys are we wishcasting as the best-dreamed version of themselves? Twelve? More?

Post-Colorado Story. Triston Casas, trending high but still with much to show. Grissom, when he gets healthy. The whole outfield: health for Tyler O’Neill, sophomore comfort for Masataka Yoshida, Wilyer Abreu (who looked bad this spring), Rafaela.

Four-fifths of the rotation, if we accept Brayan Bello might get there, but clearly hasn’t yet? Half the bullpen wasn’t here last season.

All managed by a man blissful despite lacking a 2025 contract, believing (probably correctly) he won’t be hurting for work.

“Whenever we talk, we talk. As of right now, this is where we are,” he told the Globe‘s Alex Speier regarding ownership and his future. “We’ll see what happens. From my end, I love it here. I love the fact that my family loves it. . . . But, at the same time, this is where we’re at.”

Cora, if nothing else, hates to lose. That alone will drive him, and thus will drive his players, from whom he still draws tremendous respect.

Why has it not similarly driven his bosses? Because they are businesspeople first, and they always have been. Sam Kennedy can Sam Kennedy all day long, but the belief is the hope of the Marcelo Mayer/Roman Anthony/Kyle Teel wave coming will be enough to wear whatever this season is.

They’re hardly the first owners to choose that calculus. It’s a bit of an epidemic. Consider college sports, trying to blow up the expanded football playoffs before they’re even played, and trying to expand the basketball tournament to limit the amont larger schools have to, you know, actually earn their place.

Better yet, consider pro golf. After all, they got more of Fenway Sports Group’s money this winter.

And its current schism between a weakened PGA Tour, meeting its remaining players’ every whim, and LIV, whose TV product can’t go seven seconds without telling you how revolutionary overpaying for talent is, is a textbook example of what happens when you put the money in front of the product that actually made it.

Depending on your age, you have lived through darker times than this. The early-90s Red Sox of Butch Hobson and “Scott Cooper, All-Star third baseman,” those last pre-Wild Card years.

The early-80s, when Chico Walker and Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens were the next wave. (Chico? Remember: They don’t all make it.)

The 60s before the Impossible Dream, dreaming of fifth in a 10-team American League, at a Fenway accomodating barely 10,000 a night.

These Red Sox? They’re not doing nothing, no matter how close the third wild card feels as you transition to being angry about the Patriots in August. But that doesn’t mean they won’t sway those that watch. It doesn’t mean they won’t suck you in. It doesn’t mean there won’t be kernels from this lost-before-it-begins season that end up part of the championship movie down the road.

Is that enough for you to care? The guy trending again on Thursday morning, as optimism reigns elsewhere while it just rains in New England, will find out like the rest of us.

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